While the vast majority of animals within hours or even minutes of birth are able to fend for themselves to a certain extent, humans, however, require constant care from their family and close circle for their survival.
This is because we are much less physically developed at birth than the offspring of other animals; as we are unable to walk or feed ourselves, which puts us in constant danger.
And although many other animals perform care for others of the same species (see elephants, primates and cetaceans among many others), our own way of life in societies has made care something cultural that extends over a person’s lifetime; perhaps there are those who would say it never quite ends.
And if it does not end, only one thing can happen, that there is a moment in life when the tables are turned and many of us become caregivers for those people who have cared for us all our lives, or for those who, because of some illness, require our help.
And we do it with pleasure, as a sign of gratitude and affection to these people who one day gave everything for us.
But, even if you do it with all the good intentions in the world, taking care of a person who cannot care for him/herself 100%, becomes a job; one that is not paid, that requires all your time, that becomes part of your life and that can become, sometimes, frustrating.
People who become caregivers see their world turn upside down and have to assume and become aware in record time of how this new situation affects all aspects of their lives:
- In their leisure time, being totally decimated and in their personal relationships, since this new situation may have created tensions with family and friends due to differences of opinion when it comes to managing it, in addition to reducing the time that can be devoted to people other than the cared ones.
- On their health and mood; caregivers tend to have more tiredness and physical and mental fatigue, they may even suffer more illnesses as they are sometimes overwhelmed.
- Emotionally, they may feel an accumulation of contradictory emotions; sadness, despair, anger, anxiety, guilt for feeling this way… Also wellbeing as they feel that they are helping a loved one and have strengthened their relationship with that person.
These emotions can sometimes be difficult to manage and can overwhelm us, so, at the slightest symptom or dangerous situation, it is best to go to a professional.
The caregiver, although supported by his or her close circles, must be aware and take care of him or herself. It may seem silly at first glance, but in many caregiving situations, the caregiver forgets that in order to take care of someone, one must first take care of oneself.
In order to be able to face this new stage of caregiving in the best possible way, there are a series of recommended guidelines to follow:
- Assume that you are human and that you do the best you can with the important task you have. Don’t carry everything on your own, admit that you can make mistakes and don’t blame yourself for it.
- If the dependent person is overly demanding, start saying no and sharing certain self-care with him/her; learn to identify what the caregiver can and cannot do and what he/she simply does not want to do. In addition, by encouraging the cared-for person to continue to perform certain actions, we will make the cared-for person feel useful and valid.
- Share the care with other people, family members, friends, public and private administration services…
- Take time for yourself, emotionally and physically you must prepare yourself for this care and also to be able to carry it as well as possible; read, take a walk, listen to music… do things you enjoy and disconnect.
- Organize the time you spend with the cared person so that routines are created and you both feel more comfortable by eliminating uncertainty.
- As much as possible, try to encourage communication between you, this way you can solve problems and concerns that arise, plus the personed cared-for will feel heard and valued.
- Reorganize your home to remove possible obstacles and to accommodate the new situation. This will better meet the needs of the cared-for person and you will spend less energy and time on day-to-day activities.
- Be well informed about the symptoms of the person in your care, it is possible that, sometimes due to ignorance of them, the situation gets out of hand and ends up in despair, but if you recognize what these behaviors or symptoms are due to and their causes, you will be able to manage it better.
- Try to practice patience, often complicated situations will arise, if you manage your feelings with calm and introspection, the environment will be much more relaxed.
In the end, if the caregiver does not take care of him/herself and rely on his/her environment… Who takes care of the caregiver?